Series: Bigtime superhero series , Book 4.0
By: Jennifer Estep | Other books by Jennifer Estep
Published By: Jennifer Estep
Published: Jul 13, 2012
ISBN # 9780988423244
By: Jennifer Estep | Other books by Jennifer Estep
Published By: Jennifer Estep
Published: Jul 13, 2012
ISBN # 9780988423244
Word Count: 94,000
Available in: Mobipocket (.mobi), Epub
DescriptionAnxious brides. Drunken businessmen. Panicked partygoers. As Bigtime, New York’s premiere event planner, Abby Appleby is capable of handling almost any crisis, but even she’s not prepared when she finds herself in the middle of a fight between superhero Talon and his ubervillain nemesis Bandit. Abby manages to save Talon, but the superhero is temporarily blinded, so she takes him back to her loft, where the two wait out a snowstorm. During a blizzard that shuts down the city, Abby and Talon grow close, and he starts calling her Nightingale because of her love of music and singing.
But Abby is afraid of what Talon will think when he can see the real her, so she conceals her identity from the sexy superhero, and they go their separate ways. However, Abby discovers that Talon is looking for Nightingale, looking for her—and so is Bandit. The mercenary ubervillain thinks that Abby has information that belongs to his boss, the mysterious Tycoon. Abby knows that she’s in serious trouble and that not even Talon—or the Fearless Five—may be able to save her....
Reader Rating: Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Sometimes, I really hate parties.
Especially engagement parties.
I hate the nose-watering flowers. The overpriced food. The endless champagne toasts. The hours-long parade of pomp, circumstance, and well wishes. The mushy exchanges of I love you that fail to last through the night, when the bride-to-be catches her fiancé in the broom closet with her best friend.
Most of all, I hate the unending crises surrounding any party—especially those of the rich and socially elite in Bigtime, New York.
Too bad I make my living planning such events.
A ragged breath cut through my dark reverie. I stood in a small antechamber deep inside the Bigtime Convention Center and Orchestra Hall. A woman dressed in a sequined, scarlet gown slouched in a chair in front of me, her head almost to her knees.
“This … is … wrong … Abby,” Olivia O’Hara wheezed. “This … is a … mistake. We’re doing this … for … all … the wrong … reasons.”
Another night, another debutante, another cosmic meltdown ten minutes before the party starts. This scenario had played itself out so many times before I could have calculated it down to the second, although most folks waited until their actual wedding day before panicking. Debutantes. They were even more temperamental than the superheroes and ubervillains who populated the sprawling city of Bigtime.
“It’s not a terrible mistake.” I raised my green eyes heavenward, asking for patience. I’d given this pep talk more than once, too. “You care about Paul, don’t you?”
Olivia hesitated. Her eyes dropped to the teardrop-shaped diamond on her left hand. She nodded again, stronger this time.
“As long as you care about him, it’s not a terrible mistake. And if it is, well, that’s what divorce lawyers are for. Just ask Joanne James. I’m sure she knows some good ones. Now, breathe into the bag before you start hyperventilating again.”
She stuck her nose and mouth back into the brown paper bag I’d given her two minutes earlier. Olivia might be having a nervous breakdown, but she took care not to smear her perfect makeup. That alone told me she was going to walk into the party right on schedule.
Of course, Olivia O’Hara wouldn’t smear her makeup anyway. Her family owned Oomph, one of the biggest makeup companies in the city. She was born with a mascara wand in one hand and lip liner in the other.
Still, if Olivia wasn’t being so careful of her face, or worse, started pulling the diamond-studded clips from her hair, well, then I’d be worried.
Soft jazz music drifted in from the main auditorium. I checked my watch and nodded in approval. The band started right on time. Olivia couldn’t hear the music. Nobody could have from this distance, unless they had superhearing—like me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a superhero. Not like the Fearless Five, Debonair, Swifte, or any of the other dozens of heroes who call Bigtime home. I don’t dress up in form-fitting spandex. Don’t wear a mask. Don’t call myself by another name. And I definitely don’t go around fighting crime. I have enough trouble handling the crises at my events.
A couple of years ago, though, I just happened to have acquired supersenses, thanks to a spilled amaretto sour and an over-electrified amp at a karaoke bar. Enhanced eyesight. Supersharp hearing. A heightened sense of touch. Souped-up taste buds. A nose that can smell cheeseburgers a mile away. I got the whole shebang, thanks to a couple thousand volts of electricity surging through my body.
Olivia kept wheezing, shooting looks at the closed door in front of us. I checked my watch again. Seven minutes and thirteen seconds until Olivia was supposed to make her grand entrance with Paul. Time to bring out the big guns.
I unzipped a pocket on the vest covering my upper body. The khaki mesh didn’t quite go with the black pants, silk camisole, and jacket I wore, but I didn’t care. My vest was better than the fanciest gown because the multiple pockets, zippers, and hidey holes contained my supplies. Today, I’d stocked it with my party gear. Bobby pins, glue, extra panty hose, clear nail polish, bandages, antacid, smelling salts, and a little pharmaceutical help—all of which were perfect for dealing with anxious, drunken, and unruly partygoers.
“Here.” I shoved my brown hair off my shoulder and pulled a white pill out of one of the upper pockets. “Take this.”
“What is it?” Olivia asked, staring at the tablet with suspicion.
“Something to help you relax. You want to relax, don’t you? After all, this is your big night—the only engagement party you’re ever going to have.”
“If you say so, Abby.”
I checked my watch. Six minutes, thirty seconds. “I say so. Now take the pill.”
I pulled out a small bottle of water from the side of my vest and handed it to her. Olivia swallowed the pill, washing it down with the water. Really, the pill wasn’t all that potent, only having the effect of one good, stiff drink, but just the act of taking it helped most people, including Olivia. Her tight face relaxed, and her brown eyes softened. The nervous edge melted away. She’d be all right now.
I gave it another thirty seconds just to be on the safe side, then moved toward the door. “Are you ready? Paul is waiting for you.”
Olivia stood, smoothing the wrinkles out of her dress. “I’m ready.”
I opened the door.
Octavia O’Hara, Olivia’s sister, paced outside, while Olivia’s fiancé, Paul Potter, slouched in a chair. With black hair, deep brown eyes, and crimson lips, Octavia was a slightly older, sultrier version of her sister. Paul wore square glasses, and his pale, thinning, blond hair flopped over his forehead, no matter how many times he pushed it off his face.
“Is she okay?” Octavia asked. “Has she finally decided to come out? Or do I need to remind her how much money we’ve spent on this?”
I nodded. “Olivia’s fine now. She just needed someone to calm her down. You know how jittery brides-to-be can be.”
Well, she probably didn’t. Octavia ran Oomph and was one of the most respected businesswomen in the city. I’d never seen her get jittery, nervous, or upset about anything, even when her father, Otto, died last year in a boating accident on Bigtime Bay. I’d planned his funeral, and Octavia had been the proverbial rock. I hadn’t even seen her cry—not once. Olivia, on the other hand, had been a hysterical, weeping basket case.
Octavia nodded. “Thank you, Abby. I’m glad you were able to get the door open and we didn’t have to resort to more extreme measures.”
I gave her a modest smile. “That’s what I’m here for. To see to these little crises.”
Olivia had only locked the door. All I had to do was dig through my vest pockets until I found the master key to the convention center, which I kept handy for just such emergencies. If Olivia had done something more difficult, like move a dresser in front of the door, I would have had to get some of the custodians to help me break it down, creating another headache. Morris Muzicale, the director of the Bigtime Symphony Orchestra, hated it when I broke something in his auditorium.
Olivia stepped into the hallway, fiddling with her engagement ring. Octavia hurried to her sister’s side, and I was immediately forgotten, as usual.
I checked my watch again. Four minutes, three seconds.
I looked over at Paul. “Are you ready? It’s almost time.”
Paul continued to slump in the chair, staring at nothing in particular. I had to repeat myself, putting more bite into my words, before he looked at me, sighed, and heaved himself to his feet.
Octavia kissed her sister’s cheek, smoothed back Olivia’s hair, and murmured into her ear. “What were you thinking? Pull yourself together. Right now.”
Though she spoke in a harsh whisper, I heard Octavia loud and clear, thanks to my superhearing.
“It will all be over soon,” Octavia continued, “and you can go back to your incessant shopping and partying and pretend like everything is fine.”
Olivia dropped her gaze and didn’t look at Octavia.
Those weren’t the kindest or most reassuring words to say to your sister, but who was I to judge? I’d learned a long time ago that spouting sunshine rarely got the job done. This wasn’t the first dysfunctional family dynamic I’d seen, and it wouldn’t be the last. This whole incident was rather tame in comparison to some of the things I’d witnessed. Bitch slaps, hair pulling, stabbings, the occasional shooting. I even had one bride take a hot curling iron to her mother’s face because she found mommy dearest screwing her intended. Yeah, the O’Haras ranked pretty low on the Richter scale when it came to family feuds.
Octavia patted Olivia’s cheek and stepped aside, so Paul could squeeze into the picture. He offered Olivia his arm. She gave him an uncertain smile and took it, her brown eyes a bit glassy. Olivia was feeling no pain now. Ah, relaxidon, the anti-anxiety wonder drug.
I pulled my cell phone out from another pocket on my vest. Thanks to the video cameras I’d hooked up earlier, the phone screen showed me the inside of the auditorium. Flowers, decorations, and five hundred invited guests crowded into the space. In addition to hosting an engagement party for her sister, Octavia intended to announce Oomph’s buyout of Polish, the lip-care company Paul’s family owned. This was definitely a merger in every sense of the word.
I hit a button on the phone, and the screen flicked to another camera. The band members were clustered together at the foot of the stage, having just finished a number and preparing to play the entrance music. The guests had turned toward the doors, waiting on Olivia and Paul. I checked my watch. Fifty-seven seconds.
I activated the headset clamped to the side of my head. “Talk to me, Chloe.”
“We’re a go,” Chloe Cavanaugh, my right-hand woman, chirped in my ear. “The band’s ready, and everyone’s eager to get a glimpse of the happy couple.”
I glanced at the screen once more. The house lights dimmed, until only candles flickered in the auditorium. As I watched, a spotlight appeared on the doors where Olivia and Paul would make their grand appearance.
Satisfied everything was as perfect as it was going to get, I signaled to the two waiting ushers to open the doors.
“All right,” I told Chloe. “Here they come.”
Olivia gave me another soft, dreamy look before she and Paul stepped inside. Gasps, claps, and murmurs of appreciation swept through the crowd.
I nodded. Another job well done—so far.
Olivia and Paul moved through the throngs of guests with Octavia watching their every step. I headed for the concrete stairs leading to the second-floor, balcony level of the auditorium.
I emerged onto the landing, and Chloe turned at the sound of my footsteps. Chloe was a petite woman in her late twenties with black hair, hazel eyes, and olive skin. Like me, she wore a simple black pantsuit. Unlike me, she didn’t have a vest on over the top of it.
I’d offered to buy Chloe a vest when I’d hired her six months ago, but she’d politely refused. She thought she could get by with what she had stuffed in her pint-sized purse. Rookie. Chloe hadn’t been through the disasters I had. She’d learn, though—if she lasted that long. Most of my employees tended to burn out after a few months. They couldn’t handle the pressure I put on them—or myself.
“How is everything?” I asked, moving to stand beside her.
Chloe swept out her hand. “See for yourself.”
I peered over the metal railing to the floor below. Earlier today, workers had removed the auditorium seats and had them replaced with thick, padded benches. Balloons shaped like enormous red lips, Oomph’s logo, bobbed up and down at the ends of the benches, while faux ivory columns ringed the area. The columns held up a sheer silk netting embossed with more lips and filled with red roses, ivy, and baby’s breath. Lights entwined with the roses made the velvet petals glow. I’d been worried about the heat from the lights igniting the flowers, but everything seemed to be okay—for now.
Olivia and Paul made their way to the middle of the auditorium, where they shook hands and kissed cheeks. If the relaxidon didn’t take Olivia’s mind off her worries, maybe the constant attention would. She’d barely have time to breathe for the next thirty minutes.
From this distance, Olivia and Paul resembled two delicate figures on top of a wedding cake, surrounded by an army of moving, glittering frosting. At least, they would have to most people. I could see them as clearly as if they stood right in front of me. I might not care for some of my supersenses, but the enhanced eyesight was a perk—most of the time.
Chloe shook her head. “You’ve done it again, Abby. I can’t believe you planned this party on a week’s notice. It looks like it took months.”
I couldn’t believe it either. I might be the professional event planner in Bigtime, but even I had difficulty throwing together a high-society soiree in five business days. But Octavia had insisted. Her baby sister’s engagement and the Oomph and Polish merger had to be announced simultaneously by mid-January in the most lavish manner possible. Olivia freaking out right before the party had been the least of my problems. Given the time crunch, I’d had to beg, badger, and berate everyone from the caterers to the florist to the band. Well, more so than usual. But somehow, it had all come together at the last minute.
My critical gaze moved from one thing to another. Decorations. Flowers. Lip balloons. Olivia. Paul.
A sense of accomplishment, of pride, filled me. I might sometimes hate parties and the crises that went along with them, but nothing satisfied me more than a job well done. Chloe was right. Everything was perfect. Just the way it should be.
Just the way I’d planned.